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Doctors use skills to focus attention on scholarship fund

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A couple who have made their mark in the medical community now are making an impression on a Salt Lake City school.

Physicians Ric and Janet Harnsberger are contributing money earned from medical legal consulting and speaking engagements, respectively, to help send Horizonte Instruction and Training Center students to college. The couple's efforts to create the Horizonte College Scholarship Endowment earned the school's community service award last month.

"We'd love the world to know about it," said Ric Harnsberger, a University of Utah professor of radiology, said of the endowment. "(Horizonte) is the best-kept secret in Salt Lake."

The school had nearly 10,000 students last school year, including 1,800 teens, 4,500 adults, 175 teen parents, and 3,600 immigrants and political refugees learning English as a second language. More than 680 received high school diplomas last spring.

Students range in age from 12 to 85 years, come from 64 countries and speak more than 82 languages. About two-thirds have limited English skills, 58 percent come from single-parent homes, and 90 percent qualify for federally funded school breakfast and lunch programs.

Janet Harnsberger, a pediatric gastroenterologist (a specialist in children's intestinal, liver and nutritional conditions) learned of the school through a magazine article. She was taken by principal Jim Andersen's attitude, specialized programs and the way he upheld his students.

Students' needs beckoned her to help. Some are homeless. Some work two jobs to make ends meet. Some have more than one child before they're old enough to vote. And yet they are working toward a better life through education.

"We live in a doctorly world where life is easy for us. I think we felt like we wanted to give back in some way," said Janet Harnsberger, who works at Cottonwood Hospital and Primary Children's Medical Center and is a clinical professor of pediatrics and family practice at the U. "It seemed like these people needed a break. If we could just give them a window to opportunity, wouldn't that be nice?"

Horizonte, which has been featured as a model school and case study in a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor, also tries to supply that window. It gathers vending machine proceeds and, being located across the street from Franklin Covey Field, parking fees from Salt Lake Buzz fans to put in a student services account. At year's end, the school gives out $500 college scholarships.

But lately, the need is outgrowing the means. Just 20 of 75 applicants received scholarships this year, said Horizonte community relations director Joanne Milner.

"It's unfair to pit students against each other," she said. "They're all deserving. They're all in need. It's just a matter of how far our money will go."

Enter the endowment. Set up about 18 months ago, it has brought in $10,500 in cash, Milner said. Include pledges and the amount is more in the neighborhood of $30,000, Ric Harnsberger said.

But the endowment must reach $100,000 before it can generate enough interest earnings to provide the $500 scholarships.

The couple are spreading the word about the endowment and working with the school to create an information brochure to raise awareness to the cause.

"What we need is a couple of big corporate partners that would like to see this happen," Ric Harnsberger said. "And we don't have that yet. But it doesn't slow us down from trying."

For more information or to donate to the endowment, call Joanne Milner at 578-8574, Ext. 413.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com